The Travel Industry Alliance (TIA) has called for transport secretary Grant Shapps to be hauled before the transport select committee to explain the methodology behind the government’s traffic light regime.
The TIA, a coalition comprising several industry associations representing thousands of members companies in travel, tourism and aviation, has written to chair of the committee – Huw Merriman MP – urging him to take Shapps to task on why the government continues to "withhold" the information and data upon which traffic light decisions are made.
"The refusal to publish this is particularly frustrating because all the actual data is in the public domain – case rates, vaccination rates, etc – yet one would think we were asking for state secrets or confidential sources," said TIA chair Danny Callaghan.
A legal challenge has been brought by Manchester Airports Group, seeking disclosure of the same information, and greater transparency around the government’s traffic light system. This challenge has been backed by Ryanair, IAG, easyJet, Virgin Atlantic and Tui.
"It is of huge importance that consumers and travel professionals have visibility on what drives an individual destination’s grading," Callaghan continued.
He said that while the easing of quarantine rules for fully vaccinated arrivals from amber list destinations was a "welcome small step" towards a recovery for travel, it had created "a whole new problem" for the industry and for consumers.
Callaghan said the situation had been exacerbated by the government’s decision to exclude France from the easing of amber list quarantine rules and place it in a separate category currently all of its own that has been dubbed "amber plus" by the industry.
"There is no amber to red watchlist, or amber to amber plus, and the difference in restrictions between being a double-vaccinated Brit coming back from an amber country and coming back from a red country are huge," said Callaghan.
"As we saw on Friday night, the government is changing the rules at the drop of a hat, with the ’amber plus’ rules that have been invented for France. Are we really saying a family of four on holiday in, for example Spain, could suddenly find themselves on the red list with a bill for thousand of pounds for managed quarantine? We urgently need visibility on whether an amber country is at the green end of the scale or verging on red."
Shapps, as well as aviation and maritime minister Robert Courts, have both previously been pressed on the methodology behind the traffic light system, and both stressed the government’s Joint Biosecurity Centre was publishing some insights on the gov.uk.
However, Callaghan said this was "far from comprehensive" and "offered no opportunity for those of us in the travel trade to understand the methodology".
"As a result, we have asked that the secretary of state be called before the transport select committee to explain why this information cannot be published," Callaghan added.
"I think we have all but given up hope of the methodology itself being published, but it would be nice to at least know why it can’t be published and why the travel industry is being left in the dark."